Bulls Resilient On Market Bottom Anniversary
Today marked the one-year anniversary of the market hitting bottom in 2009. Stocks advanced modestly for much of the day before losing steam in the last hour, with the major indexes trading briefly in the red before managing to post another gain. As was the case yesterday, there was little in the way of news to move sentiment significantly in either direction. The fact stocks reversed course today after dipping into negative territory is a positive sign for the strength of the market.
Stocks posted gains in today’s trading. The Nasdaq composite was the strongest performer, adding 8 points, or 0.4%, to 2,341. The Dow added 12 points to close at 10,564, while the S&P 500 added 2 points to end at 1,140. Oil added 53 cents to close at $81.34 per barrel. Gold declined by $2.20 to $1,121.80 per ounce.
In economic news, there was a little good news on the jobs front. The Labor Department reported that there were 2.7 million job openings at the end of January, up from 2.5 million at the end of December. Meanwhile, the Small Business Optimism Index, calculated by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), fell by 1.3 points to 88.0, but 11% of the firms surveyed said they were having difficulty filling openings, up from 10% the prior month. The NFIB index bottomed out at 81 in March 2009.
In earnings news, shares of The Kroger Company (KR) fell -2.4% on news that the company’s Q4 profit declined -27%. For the fourth quarter, the grocery chain operator posted a profit of $255.4 million, or 39 cents a share, down from $349.2 million, or 53 cents a share, last year. This beat the 34-cent consensus. Sales climbed 7% to $18.6 billion. Twenty seven pro investors counted the stock among their top-15 holdings at the start of Q1, while nearly 150 tickerspy members included the stock in their portfolios.
Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS) reported Q4 profit that topped analyst estimates and also issued upbeat 2010 guidance. Shares slipped by -0.7%. Net income was $67.4 million, or 56 cents per share, beating the Street’s view by a penny. This compared with a loss of -$105.6 million, or -94 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue jumped 10.7% to $1.3 billion, while same-store sales grew 2.5%. For FY10, Dick’s anticipates EPS of $1.32-$1.35, in line with the average analyst forecast of $1.32.
Shares of Stage Stores (SSI) declined by -0.4% after the department store operator announced that its Q4 profit increased 10%. For the period ended January 30th, the company earned $27.9 million, or 72 cents per share, up from $25.3 million, or 67 cents per share, a year earlier. Wall Street was expecting EPS of 69 cents. Sales sank -5% to $431.7 million. Looking forward, Stage expects Q1 EPS between a loss of -2 cents to a profit of 2% per share on sales of $332-$339 million. Analysts foresee a Q1 loss of -2 cents. For the full year, the company guided for EPS of 80-90 cents on sales of $1.44-$1.47 billion, compared to analyst estimates of 81 cents on revenue of $1.47 billion.
H&R Block (HRB) said its Q3 profit rose 7% despite a drop in the number of tax returns prepared in stores through February 28th compared to a year ago. Shares gained 0.5%. For the quarter ended January 31st, the tax preparer earned $50.6 billion, or 15 cents a share, coming in ahead of analyst estimates by a cent. Last year the company earned $47.4 million, or 14 cents a share. Revenue slipped -6% to $934.9 million. Fourteen pro investors counted the stock among their top-15 holdings at the start of Q1, while 75 tickerspy members included the stock in their portfolios.
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